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Criminal Justice

Court Orders ICE To Report Adelanto COVID-19 Detainee Deaths And Serious Cases

A guard sits with his back to the camera in the middle of a concrete-floored room. To either side are cells on two stories.
FILE PHOTO: The 'segregation block' at the Adelanto Detention Facility photographed on November 15, 2013. The detention center has been ordered to report COVID-related deaths.
(John Moore
Getty Images)
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A court order will require the Adelanto immigration detention center to change how it reports the deaths and hospitalizations of its detainees due COVID-19.

This comes after the March death of Martin Vargas, a 52-year-old detainee who contracted COVID-19 last December. Vagas was released from the detention center in Adelanto to a hospital just days before his death on March 8. According to the ACLU of Southern California, this was done without any notice to his family or immigration attorney.

Jessica Bansal, an ACLU attorney, said that a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer would not tell Vargas' immigration attorney what happened to him.

"He said, 'Oh, he's released.' And when she pushed for information about where he was, the ICE officer said, 'Oh, why don't you go to the Los Angeles immigration court,'" Bansal said.

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Vargas's lawyer found out about his death 10 days later— from the Orange County Coroner's office.

A federal judge granted an order this week that requires ICE to report to the ACLU when an Adelanto detainee infected with COVID-19 has died, or has been transferred to the facility's infirmary or a hospital. These cases must also be reported to a special court-appointed investigator assigned to look into what happened to Vargas.

ICE officials declined to comment on the case.

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